The Church does not fool around with matters like these. She requires that
they be examined retrospectively, and I shall now tell you how this check is
performed. It is important, even if only for the sake of learning about it.
Because I must stress that our endeavour here is for you to learn a couple
of things - basically to live these things - that is, to work your way into
the Church and into deification, because all of us are destined to be
gifted and inspired by God's Grace (that is, divinely inspired and living
within the Grace of the Holy Spirit). Beyond this, we need to know a
couple more things; but, in case of any attempt at offence, ridicule,
reaction, or a fleecing of the Truths of our Church, we need to make an
elementary statement. You know, it's not a matter of convincing anyone; it's
about having a responsible reason and being aware of it ourselves as well -
about having a stability in that which we know. And even if we testify
to the matter, it's not about the other accepting or not accepting it.
Christ Himself spoke Truths, and yet, they crucified Him....
The Church therefore examines closely the matter of divine inspiration. With
regard to a persons' sanctity, She examines it over time; She examines it as
a whole, where everyone concurs, and She examines it historically with
reference to an Ecumenical Synod. I am telling you all these things so
that you may have an experience of our Church. The Church is above all else;
the most important thing is the Church, and, if we abide within the Church,
all these things can be surpassed - we simply do not need to rush into
anything. That's why there can be (I must stress this) both one single
opinion, but there can also be two major Fathers each with a different
opinion, and then the Church will opine: "This is the correct one".
This doesn't mean that the one with the differing opinion is a heretic.
The Church has chosen. She is divinely inspired. Thus, divine inspiration is
not judged by the uniqueness of a person; it is judged by the entire Church,
in full, and throughout the ages. You must keep this in mind, please.
And this entire way of expression and life (we are talking about divine
inspiration) is a very powerful thing and very beautiful, and it expresses
Orthodoxy from within the secure knowledge that it is true, given that it
has been examined from many aspects and many ways. It has been checked.
We do not have doubts whether it is the truth or not the truth. But above
all, what is more important, is that the Church continues to function; that
we be members of the Church and live ascetically (because the God-bearing
Fathers live ascetically and they sanctify their lives) and from in there,
all of us, including you, can participate in this process of fermentation of
our Tradition... If you are God's people and you live ascetically...
Remember how many ascetics lived in remote mountainous places and yet
uttered earth-shaking truths - like the case of that holy man who came to
the Council of Chalcedon and stated a truth.
Many are those who have said things that became earth-shattering... Who had
heard of Saint Nicholas Kavasilas (1322-1391 AD)? He was a monk who lived in
Constantinople and lived around the year one thousand three hundred and
something... Who had ever listened to him? He had said such amazing things
about the Liturgy, the Church examined them over the years, and then opined:
"This is our Tradition!" Well, that's what we say too. Then you
see texts by persons that no-one is familiar with. But the Church is
familiar with them. So, when they have become familiar and accepted by all
the other Fathers, then it becomes part of Tradition. Keep these facts
in mind, and especially preserve the spirit of ecclesiology. Take care: the
spirit of ecclesiology - ensure that the Church continues to function.
I will now give you an example. I'm aware that you respect the Church, but
sometimes, you never know... So I will give you a very practical
example, so that you have a practical understanding, from an example that is
recent, just how the Church functions.
A few days ago someone sent me a message from their mobile phone, saying:
"Father Constantine, I am on an excursion with my wife at Meteora, and in a
women's monastery there, they told me to 'sign this text, which is opposed
to the Patriarch'. What should I do? Yes or No?"
I don't know how you would reply, but if you didn't have an ecclesiastic
mindset, whatever your reply might have been - either yes or no - it would
have been wrong. Even if you said "yes" it would have been wrong, and
if you said "no" it would again be wrong - if you didn't think
ecclesiastically. I am posing this as an exercise, as an example, so that
you can perceive what it means. Now, note this: In the Church, we
don't have Protestantism, where each and every one gets up and says his own
thing, nor a Vatican, where the people are gagged and unable to speak.
The Church is the surpassing of both the monolithic and egotistic Vatican
and of mutiny and egotism, where anyone can say anything and that's that.
No, the Church has other measures.
I shall outline this in a practical manner, because these are today's
issues. So, let's say they tell you that they have certain things against
the Patriarch. I will not stop to think whether I (personally) favour the
Patriarch - nothing like that; I will think of the Church. My first
response would be: "Who gave you the paper to be signed?" They answer:
"The Monastery". I ask: "Why did the Monastery ask you? The Monastery
has a corps of its own - the monks. If the Monastery with its Abbott has any
objections whatsoever, that corps should write a letter..." But, we
must be careful here: NOT to the Patriarch himself, directly.
Now pay attention to what our Orthodoxy has to say: This body of monastics...
if the entire body agrees, not forcefully, with someone cornering the others
- and more importantly if they all agree unanimously - and they have a
certain objection pertaining to the Patriarch, given that they do have the
right to object to any matter whatsoever (you see, we are not a Vatican),
they can speak up against the Patriarch. How? Well, firstly, they all
have to agree - the entire body first of all. You alone are not "a
body". Are you a member of the ------- Monastery of Meteora? No,
you aren't. What business have you in there then? You are a part
of a parish; you express your views from within that parish and your
Metropolis. So, if those monks or nuns have an issue, they themselves
should write it down. No-one in our Church is reproached, nor is he
considered a heretic, just because he has expressed his opinion on whichever
matter. We don't have any Pope. We have Orthodoxy. People
have the right to say : "This is wrong"; it will be judged by the Church,
but they do have the right to say it. Note well: THIS is
where should they make their issue known ? Definitely not vociferously
and by collecting signatures. How many nuns are in that monastery?
Thirty? Then those thirty should speak up, but not muster everyone
from the neighboring townships, or from the Peloponnese in the south to
Trikala further up, and as far as northern Greece, in order to collect
signatures, as a show of power. It's a secular system, if we demonstrate our
power through a multitude of signatures. It's wrong! That way, the
Monastery falls into a trap. So, that's the first point: The nuns
should write it down, provided they all agree, and they should listen to the
opinion of even the very last nun, right? There must be a unanimous
opinion, for such important issues. Then, whatever they have written
should be addressed - to whom? To their Bishop of course. After all,
they do belong somewhere, don't they? There is surely a Bishop in
their region. Are they going to ignore him? The Bishop will take
their letter and - whether he agrees or doesn't agree - he will duly write a
letter to the Patriarchate and say that "I have received this objection from
the ------ monastery". The point is, that the spirit of ecclesiology
must prevail. And of course, if that Metropolis belongs directly to
the Church of Greece, the matter must go there first, and the Church of
Greece will then forward it to the Patriarchate. THAT is the proper
order, THAT is the way it should be done. Furthermore, we also monitor
ourselves in that way. So I said to those friends: "You will naturally
NOT sign, but, you CAN take up the matter with your parish priest, if you
too have any objection regarding the Patriarch - whatever objection. Write a
letter to your Bishop; your Bishop will duly forward it to the Holy Synod
and the Patriarchate.
That's the whole idea. Is it so terrible? We mustn't overlook the
Church, otherwise we become Protestants. Every one of us says whatever he
wants; you shout, he shouts... He is free to say what he wants; nobody
condemns him. And I will even congratulate him - regardless if he was right
or wrong - for daring to tell the truth, they way he expressed it, and we
can also say to him: "You were wrong". The Church doesn't scold you if
you were mistaken. She does scold you however, if you act as a conventicle.
And if you are familiar with the Canons of our Church, the term "conventicle"
contains an ecclesiastic term: it's called "tyreia". It is the worst
possible thing. It implies the splintering of the Church: You get five or
ten people who form their own decision and then they propagate it to the
world noisily. Well, that can't be. We here do not have a
conventicle. That's how our Church works. Keep in mind the
standards by which you should act. Which means that neither should you
be deprived of your voice, nor should you become a conventicle, forming a
group of ten people. Ask yourselves: Who? Who grouped you
together? There was that incident one or two years ago - the same
thing happened - where ... I don't know, four hundred or so priests, all
very familiar names, who wrote a text opposing the "666", you know, that
story... And they too made a protest. I was wont to ask: "Who
are you all? You all belong to a local Church, parishes, Metropolises... Who
are you? Who are all of you that have gathered together? How did you
all gather together from all parts of Greece and sign? Does the Church
have such systems?"
Keep these things in mind and don't become victims of conventicles.
Perhaps the issues projected are opportune and significant. No-one denies
the importance of issues, but I do deny conventicles. Which brings me
back to the matter of divine inspiration, when the Grace of the Holy Spirit
is forfeited, and our egotism takes charge, we abandon the Church. Who
is divinely inspired? The Church - the body of the Church. How did the
Holy Bible come to be? The Holy Bible came from the Church. And where
did the Apostles live? They lived within the Church. They were
obedient to their Church; they would voice their opinion... some of them
were even persecuted, but eventually, over time (which is what the Church
always does), if they had been persecuted, it is finally revealed that they
had spoken a truth. They were eventually acknowledged as God-bearing Fathers
of our Church.
So you see, divine inspiration is a very big deal. But first of all,
before considering whether something is right or wrong, we ourselves should
enter the realm of divine inspiration, personally. Hey - this is about
our personal life! All God-bearing persons, Christians and Fathers,
are formed through ascesis and in repentance. Their entire being is
cleansed: their soul, their body, their mind... and as such, they are in a
position to express a word of truth. And even though no-one may
hearken to it, it will certainly be hearkened to eventually. It will
be recognized. That is why "throughout all the world their voice went
forth". But you see, we are in a hurry for our own "divine
inspiration" to prevail. We submit whatever we have to say. Whatever
we have to say may be mistaken, but we aren't afraid - we haven't said the
mistake intentionally. We speak our mind; we aren't intimidated. Nobody
judges us as though we are heretics. We speak our opinion. And our
opinion will be judged, in time, by our Church's "methodology" (if the term
is an appropriate one).
Therefore, I have the right to say whatever I wish, since I don't express it
in a bad manner - even now, as I interpret the Bible. I always strive here
to remain faithful to the interpretation of the Fathers, because I don't
know too many things - I don't possess any special divine inspiration for
giving my own personal interpretation. I strive to follow the Fathers,
but along the way, I may mention my own opinion on a subject. It will be
judged by the Church. And if the Church overall tells me that I'm mistaken,
I will say: "thank you very much", and I won't have become a heretic.
But if I persist and say: "No, what I said is correct", then I become a
Take note of this balance: that is, even though I have the freedom to speak
(not that I want to speak), I want the Fathers to speak. That's what I
strive for, but I'm only human. I analyze texts, I examine current
situations and take a stance on various issues. No-one is infallible and it
is possible that we may make mistakes which aren't intentional mistakes. The
Church will judge me, and will tell me if I'm mistaken.
However, if issues are dogmatic and very profound (as was the matter of
transplants which we had opposed), then, because we have an entire theology,
an anthropology of our Church, we do not speak our own minds. We had
opposed a heresy when we spoke out.
Beyond these points, keep this in mind: be ascetically-living people,
enlightened by God, humble, sanctified, endowed with Grace, and stay close
to the Church. Let the Church be everything for you, and from within
it, the Truth will surface and you will have a word to say. You will submit
whatever word you may have to say, and then the Church will opine if it is
right or wrong. Do not have egotism and say "I"... That's what others
did, who said: "I know the truth; I also plan to form an organization to get
it through to others. I am also collecting a thousand signatures to ensure
it." But these are secular measures; that's why I refuse to accept a
democracy of that kind; I accept a democracy of the executive kind - state
or conciliar - for practical issues, so that we can have something by which
decisions can be reached quickly : for instance, if there should be
five or ten cleaning ladies at the Conciliar Hall... I believe you
have grasped the importance of divine inspiration, which is a very serious
matter... that's why the Bible says: "Every divinely-inspired Scripture..."
Question: At present, the Orthodox people don't know....
Fr. Const.: No! Orthodox people cannot say "I don't know". They must
sit down and do some serious reading...
Question: I am curious, how come someone who belongs in the body of
the Church, and since he doesn't need to accept the hierarchy and if doing
obedience to his spiritual father, should also do the same to the
Metropolitan, and the Archbishop and the Patriarch? I mean, how can people
break that chain and so irresponsibly pass judgment on the peak of that
entire edifice - given that we must support it from start to finish?
Fr.Const.: You are correct, with one observation to your comment:
All that you said is wonderful, and I agree with you. With one difference:
Here, we don't have a Pope or a Vatican. No-one is infallible. And we have
the right and the possibility, respectfully, with very proper words and
without forming parties, ranks, divisions, to express our opinion.
Fortunately we don't have a Pope. We have a Patriarch, who essentially has
no authority in Orthodoxy. Ecclesiastically, the Patriarch's authority is
limited to a very small piece: 1/4 of Constantinople. No, not all of
Constantinople. Only 1/4 of it, because Constantinople has 3 other Bishops.
The Patriarch's responsibility is only there, and nothing more. No Rome, no
Vatican, no universal authority. He is simply the one who must be the
coordinator necessary for coordinating a Council (Synod). He is the
first, among equals. That is his responsibility: to coordinate everyone
together. The Patriarch is a Bishop, who also essentially expresses
the humbleness of our Orthodoxy. He is not a priest, but he does have the
responsibility - the authority - when he goes to speak. In fact, note
this: I have shouted this out so many times and have been
misunderstood for it.
The only one who has the authority to speak to the Pope is the Patriarch.
Because it is written in the Canonical Law of our Church: From where
did someone depart? He must bear the responsibility of his therapy,
from where he had departed. Well, they had departed from the One Church -
the catholic (universal) one.
When the Pope had come here, to Athens, I had spoken out boldly to the
Archbishop at the time, that he had made a mistake; that it was not within
his right to do so; that only the Patriarch can talk with the Pope (because
it was from him that they had departed), and therefore he (the Archbishop)
cannot. That's how our Orthodoxy is. And, as stated in the
Pedalion, he also has the right (if someone has departed and defected), as
well as the responsibility, to bring back the strayed child. That is the
Patriarchs' responsibility, and he must persevere in his attempts towards
And there is absolutely no way that there will be any kind of union and
common Chalice and common prayer. Absolutely not. If it does
happen, I will be the first to no longer be on his side... It simply isn't
However, the responsibility that only he can speak is also his duty,
and he must do it... but no-one else - not the Archbishop of Athens, not of
Thessaloniki, nor of Cyprus (where the Pope had also visited)... nor of
Cyprus. No-one. It was they (the Latins) who had abandoned him
(the Patriarch)... We need to be a bit more informed about Orthodoxy.
Orthodoxy cannot be sold off that way... There are some who say to me:
"Ah, but you're descended from Constantinople..." Well, it's not
because I'm from Constantinople that I'm on the Patriarch's side. Seeing how
things are the way they are until now, I have nothing "against" him.
If he were to perpetrate a huge mistake, I myself would point it out.
So far, nothing has been sold of Orthodoxy...
As I said, we shall speak our mind, but not create any disturbance among our
people. Therefore, we speak our mind - whether about our Bishop or our
Patriarch - but it must be a responsible opinion, and not just go along with
whatever the Mass Media and certain religious pamphlets tell us, thus
stirring up hatred and turmoil. Besides, we have a brain and we
can think; we aren't vegetables. And we don't sell ourselves off.
I told you: If a union does take place the way it seems to be striving to
(IF it takes place, which it WON'T), I will be the first to NOT be "on their
What more can I say? There is absolutely no way that I will sell off
Orthodoxy, for anyone's sake. But, things aren't like that for the time
being; they are still at the stage that they were, when they commenced in
1961 with Archbishop Athenagoras. They have hardly moved at all. Athenagoras
used to say: "A dialogue of love; let's get together and just say hello, you
guys". He never said: "let's have a theological dialogue".
They had attempted it once, but it didn't work out, did it?
Theological dialogue doesn't work out... What can come out of it, when they
have altered our Orthodoxy? How can it work out? To accept their
positions cannot possibly be accepted. There will be an impasse there.
The union will take place - if it does take place (and it is something that
everyone wants) - by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, without anything of
Orthodoxy sold off... nothing at all... not a single thing. We sell
off nothing of holy Orthodoxy, for which the God-bearing Fathers had been
martyred, centuries ago.
We aren't exactly stupid...